Tunney Side of Sports, “Coming up next: The Culture of a T.E.A.M.” – #249, Oct. 5, 2009

After Further Review … “We’re not just going to beat ‘em, we’re gonna embarrass ‘em” was a statement by an NFL player talking about an upcoming opponent. Football, as it is with any contact sport, is an emotional one. Players must get themselves emotionally ready for every game. You can’t take an emotional week off.

Granted that this player was probably “psyching” himself and his teammates up for that game, however, he unknowingly also provided some incentive for his opponent. What reaction would you have if someone said that to you? Most players would respond by giving extra effort to ensure their best performance. That sort of trash talking also breeds ill will.

The real issue is the disrespect of opponents by saying “We’re gonna embarrass ‘em.” Some players need to be reminded that football is a G.A.M.E. – important yes, but needs to be kept in perspective. It is healthier to show respect for an adversary, than insolence. I have never felt good about being an intimidator, mostly because I never liked being the “intimidatee.”

In my book “It’s the Will, Not the Skill,” we decry players who “dance in the end zone” after scoring a touchdown. By scoring, you have already frustrated your opponent; there is no need to “rub salt in the wound.” Sure, players should get excited and celebrate success, but not to extremes. How often have you seen the sack of a QB by a lineman, who then celebrates as if he’s just won the Nobel Prize, and his team is behind 35-0?! That word T.E.A.M. certainly says more than just the 4 letters themselves. In football, no running back scores a touchdown without the effort and support of the other ten.

Teams need to develop and sustain a T.E.A.M. culture which becomes their “face.” The NFL’s greatest teams had such a culture, e.g. Lombardi’s Packers, Landry’s Cowboys, Shula’s Dolphins, Noll’s Steelers, Ditka’s Bears, and Madden’s Raiders. Different in nature, but their own face.

At the risk of offending some of today’s great coaches, let me cite the culture that second year Head Coach Mike Singletary is bringing to the San Francisco 49ers. One only needs to recall last year the way he handled rookie TE Vernon Davis. Mike is a no-nonsense guy and stepped-up to not only be the 49ers leader, but to establish a culture that is focused on creating a winning climate. Of the 12 years that I spent on the field with Mike (#50 MLB Chicago Bears), I never once saw him disrespect his opponent.

Will you develop your own “culture” to be an example of civility?

 

Jim


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